The Philadelphia 76ers were bound to be well represented this season for major awards. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid had been hyping up their own credentials for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
The league announced on Thursday that both players were finalists for those respective awards. Simmons is up against Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) and Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) for DPOY, while Embiid is in the conversation for MVP with Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors). The latter honor might be a hard one for the Sixers big man to win since he missed 24 games due to injury and load management.
Surprisingly, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers didn’t make the final cut for Coach of the Year. It’s a three-man race between Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz), Thom Thibodeau (New York Knicks), Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns). Snyder has the best chance since Utah owns the best record in the Western Conference. However, Rivers guided an injury-plagued Philadelphia team to the top spot in the Eastern Conference and received no love. It was a strange diss.
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Doc Rivers: ‘One of Those Guys’
The Sixers have played above expectations this season, although the goal remains to win a championship. His players had just been talking about the way Rivers changed the culture in Philly the other day. They understand that his influence goes way beyond the locker room.
“He’s one of those guys, and it’s really impressive,” second-year guard Matisse Thybulle said of Rivers. “Just his ability to have tough conversations and go to those uncomfortable places that allow teams and individuals to push past wherever they’re at, and get to the places where really you become successful.”
Philadelphia went 43-30 last year and earned the No. 6 seed in the East under Brett Brown. They exited the playoffs in the second round. Fast forward to 2021: 49-23 and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs as the best team in the East. The transformation was tangible.
“He is unbelievable, non-stop giving stories,” 12-year veteran Danny Green said. “It gives us great insight in how they adapt and also then they can relate to us a little bit. It helps us to understand certain things and what they want from us, what they need from us.”
Sixers Playoff Schedule Released
Rivers’ crew was sitting at home on Thursday night awaiting the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Washington Wizards game. They’ll get the victors on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. The NBA released the full schedule for the Sixers’ first-round matchup:
Game 1: Sunday, May 23 — 1 pm (TNT)
Game 2: Wednesday, May 26 — 7 pm (NBATV)
Game 3: Saturday, May 29 — TBD (ESPN)
Game 4: Monday, May 31 — TBD (TNT)
Game 5: Wednesday, June 2 — TBD
Game 6: Friday, June 4 — TBD
Game 7: Sunday, June 6 — TBD
“This is why you play basketball, for these opportunities, for these moments, to reach the highest peak of the game at the highest level,” forward Tobias Harris said. “That’s something I don’t take for granted. That’s something that continues to strive me to work.”